Gantz concedes; Israeli PM Netanyahu secures 5th term

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on course for a fifth term in office

Four top US Democratic lawmakers known for their support of Israel on Friday warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to annex the West Bank, amid signs President Donald Trump is ending Washington's longstanding push for a Palestinian state. Japan has continued to identify its differences with the USA on key Middle East issues, from Israel to Iran (it prefers engagement with Tehran to isolation, the Trump administration's default policy). President Trump has vowed to propose a peace plan in the coming weeks or months and he says it will require both sides to make concessions. Blue and White won 35 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, against the 36 won by Likud.

The president added an optimistic prediction for progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu was now poised to become, in July, the longest-serving Israeli prime minister, overtaking the country's founding father, David Ben-Gurion.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan on Thursday denounced newly reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow to annex the occupied West bank as both immoral and a flagrant violation of global law.

"This is a night of great victory".

They leave President Reuven Rivlin, who must ask one of the candidates to form a government, with little choice but to pick Netanyahu.

"I'm going to apply sovereignty, but I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlement points, because from my perspective every such point of settlement is Israeli", Netanyahu said during a television interview.

Sputnik: We have 99 percent* of the votes counted; what do you think?

The attorney general has announced he intends to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending an upcoming hearing. This means that Netanyahu has more allies on the right of the political spectrum with which he can form a coalition.

Netanyahu, speaking Tuesday night, declared it a "tremendous victory" for his party. Accordingly Gantz, although an able and intelligent man, established no platform of his own which could swing enough voters from the right of Israel's political map. Netanyahu has led Israel for so long that people there and overseas have come to view him as the very face of Israeli politics-as inevitable.

Breaking with decades of US policy and global consensus, Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017 and Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights last month.

The Palestinians demand a full return to the borders that existed before the 1967 war when Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

This pre-election promise from Netanyahu was widely seen as an attempt to draw right-wing votes rather than a change of policy.

"He's been more of a status quo-maintenance politician for many years, now faced with some momentous decisions", Shapiro said.

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